Educational reform sweeping the United States can succeed only if teachers are trained as rigorously as are law and medical school students and given equally enticing career ladders to climb, say three educators at the University of California at Berkeley (UC).
This would require a revamping of schools of education and teacher-certification requirements, education Prof. Charles S. Benson suggests in a new report on improving the quality of teachers and retaining good teachers - problems long targeted for reform.
''The schools of education have not established or maintained high standards for teacher preparation,'' says the UC Public Affairs report, titled ''The Education of Educators: Preparing and Retaining Excellent Teachers.'' It suggests these training goals:
* Require a prospective teacher to have a bachelor's degree and to demonstrate academic competence before admittance to a teacher preparation program.
* Once admitted to a certificate program, a student should be required to take a two-year master's degree program.
* After passing a test modeled after a bar exam for lawyers, a teacher would be given only temporary credentials. A long-term credential would be granted only after a one-year supervised internship in the classroom.
''Unqualified individuals are not normally allowed to build bridges, repair teeth, or handle litigation in court,'' say Dr. Benson and research associates Trish Stoddart and David J. Losk. They note that in California, teachers on the average devote only 10 percent of their academic preparation to professional study and only 10 percent to student teaching.
But to train teachers with rigor without the incentive of high salaries and advancement would be fruitless, they conclude. The average starting salary for a California teacher is $13,500 a year, compared with $30,000 in other professional fields.
The educators suggest a four-tier career ladder, starting with the internship. A teacher would then be given responsibility for day-to-day classroom activity, the level at which career advancement now ends. But they suggest adding a ''specialist'' category, in which teachers would be given the chance to initiate improvement in special subject areas at schools. The next category would be the ''mentor'' teacher, charged with monitoring professional standards, supervising interns, and participating in the certification process. These teachers, they suggest, should be granted short-term appointments as clinical professors in schools of education.